Life can be a challenge sometimes and a little frustrating, especially for kids. Why are some children better able to speak-up for themselves, tackle a situation with zest and confidence while others give up or not even try? Building self-advocacy skills in children helps to support their success in all areas of their life.
What is self-advocacy?
Self-advocacy is the ability to ask for what you need, and to speak-up about the things that are important to you. Children who have a strong sense of self-advocacy know their rights and responsibilities and feel comfortable telling others how they feel.
Benefits of self-advocacy
Children who can advocate for themselves tend to be more confident in all areas of their life. They have a healthy self-esteem, and a strong sense of self. These children are more likely to advocate for themselves and others. They can decide what they want, develop a plan to achieve their goals and demonstrate responsibility for the choices they make.
Implications of not teaching
In order to self-advocate, one should have a strong sense of self. Many children, especially those with a disability, are not aware of their strengths and challenges or even the fact that they have a disability. When a child cannot advocate for themselves, they are more likely to develop behaviour problems, become anxious or depressed. Problems in these areas can lead to poor self- control; which can then have a serious effect in all domains of their life.
Build a strong sense of self
As parents you can help your children become more aware of their skills. When children are aware of their strengths and challenges, and accept those qualities, they are more likely to be confident and self-advocate for themselves. Sit down with you child and have them create an “All about me” journal. This journal can contain pictures of their interests, their hobbies, their talents as well as their challenges.
Set goals with your children
Teaching children at a young age to set goals and navigate stressful situations is imperative in helping children thrive. Have your child identify any difficulties associated with a school environment or perhaps with a friend. Ask them what their goal is for each difficulty, then write down the necessary steps to achieve that goal.
Explain a diagnosis to your child
Many parents may feel compelled not disclose this information to their child for a variety of reasons. When a child is not aware of their disability and what it means for them or their learning needs, the behaviour associated because of this lack of knowledge can have a severe impact on their academic and social skills. If you are not sure how to get started, consider the resource “How to Explain a Diagnosis to Child, An Interactive Resource Guide for Parents and Professionals” available on Amazon.
Work with your child’s teacher
Many children have no trouble expressing themselves at home but at school is another story. It is important for both parents and educators to work collaboratively to bridge the gap between home and school to create a positive school climate. This collaboration leads to co-operation and support that can make a real difference to how your child views themselves as a learner. They are more likely to tackle difficult academic problems without getting upset, speak for themselves and communicate their needs. Confident children who advocate for themselves are more engaged in the learning process.
When parents and educators take the time to work on building self-advocacy skills, they are helping children to feel empowered. Self-advocacy allows children to overcome obstacles, cope with stress more effectively and pave the way for learning. Children are then better able to make choices and decisions that affect all areas of their life.
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